Sauce for the goose: the 41-vote rule

I strongly criticized the 41-vote rule in the Senate when the Republican minority used it to block legislation and appointments proposed by President Obama.

imbalanceNow Democrats are using the same rule to prevent the Republican majority from disapproving the Iran nuclear inspection deal negotiated by President Obama and other world leaders with the Iranian government.

I am glad of the result, but I still think it is a bad rule.

The rule allows Senators to use a kind of virtual filibuster to block Senate action, which can be over-ridden only by a vote of 60 Senators.  It is not part of the Constitution.  It is not a law.  It is a rule of the Senate itself.

The United States already has more checks and balances than any other contemporary democracy.  Laws, appropriations and taxes require approval of a House of Representatives elected by popular vote, a Senate elected on the basis of state sovereignty and a President elected by a hybrid system through the Electoral College.

Even then, the Supreme Court, which is appointed not elected, can overrule decisions by the President and Congress.

I don’t think the United States needs more checks and balances than are provided for in the Constitution.

One big thing wrong with the 41-vote rule is that it allows Senators to evade responsibility.  If the Republicans who oppose the Iran deal really think it is an existential threat to the United States or Israel, they should exercise their legal authority, and allow a simple majority to block the deal.  The fact that they don’t indicates that their heart really isn’t in it.

In this case, I don’t think a vote by the Senate to reject the deal would have been catastrophic.  President Obama could have used his veto power.

And, in any case, the deal is that the United Nations Security Council will lift its resolution authorizing sanctions.  Other nations will resume doing business with Iran, and some already are, regardless of what the United States does.

The 41-vote rule is a bad rule.  It is a bad rule even though it sometimes generates a good result.

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